Senate considers bill to lighten mandatory minimum sentences

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Monday on a bill aimed at curbing mass incarceration by easing mandatory minimum sentences.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, led by key conservative Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, as well as the liberal Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The legislation also garners support from numerous groups, including the Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Justice Fellowship.

"[T]he question isn't whether we punish those who break the law, but how we punish them — for how long, under what circumstances, and toward what end," Lee said in remarks at the Heritage Foundation after the bill was originally introduced.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, the prison population suffers from a 30 percent overcrowding rate overall, while the Department of Justice spends more than a quarter of its budget — $7 billion — on corrections.